Two weeks ago the Panthers absolutely embarrassed the Falcons 38-0. And last year the Panthers beat up the Falcons 34-3. Bravado will tell you that today will be the same. However, here's a cautionary tale. A team that was embarrassed is going to work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again. Here is some history that I don't want to see happen to Carolina. In 2010, the Patriots beat the snot out of the Jets in Week 17 by a score of 38-7. That had the Patriots finish the year at 14-2. Two weeks later in the Playoffs, the Jets ended the Patriots season 28-21. So my point is today is not an automatic win for the Panthers.
However, I do see us going 15-0, but to do so here are the three things that must happen:
1- Josh Norman vs Julio-
#24 needs to play well and show he can handle the increased attention. I've heard more talk this week about how Josh Norman is "A Cover-Two guy" and not a "Shutdown Corner." Julio and Roddy have even chimed in and questioned his toughness. This could get interesting, but Norman needs to play with a controlled anger. He needs to hold Julio to under 100 yards
2- Corral Devonta Freeman-
He is averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and has 907 yards on the year. His four 100 yard games this year all came earlier in the season and the Falcons are a different team when he goes off. The Panthers have looked a little worn down against the run lately and they have to tighten up in that area. I'm going to say we need to keep him to below 75 yards rushing.
3- Melt Matty-Ice-
No doubt Matt Ryan is talented but he has looked a little off this year. He still has a very respectable numbers this year. He's completing 65.7% of his passes and has 3,951 yards so far. The stats that stand out are only 18 TDs and 15 INTs. So he's moving the ball between the 20s but melting down in the Red Zone. If that trend continues today, then the Panthers will go 15-0.
So those are my three quick keys to the game. I also am looking for no injuries and I'm anxious to see Cameron Artis-Payne again this week. What are you looking for?